Intercultural competence for all students: how prepared are our students for the global workplace?
Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet), 2016
Many Swedish students have little contact with non-Swedish students in their education. This round table aims to discuss examples of good practice at Chalmers and elsewhere, and look at how intercultural competence can become part of the learning goals at both course and program level.
Chalmers students study in a multicultural environment and will work in a global environment. This is an environment which involves meeting, communicating with, negotiating with, and cooperating with a range of cultures in different companies and different countries. The ability to deal with such meetings in a constructive way is vital when team members and work colleagues come with experiences and expectations different to one’s own.
Technical universities in Sweden are in a paradoxical situation in terms of intercultural communication. On the one hand, technical universities are more international in terms of students, teachers and researchers and the work market is one of the most culturally heterogeneous. On the other hand, many teachers see their subject as objective and free from cultural dimensions and they feel little responsibility for the university’s explicit goals on global competence and cultural diversity. Activities connected to these goals seldom have any merit in an academic career.
Where activities in intercultural communication take place, they are often directed at non-Swedish students. Consequently, it is possible for Swedish students to complete their education at Chalmers with very little contact with students from other countries. Comments from the International Student Barometer 2014 show that non-Swedish students do not feel part of an international environment at Chalmers. An UKÄ project carried out in 2015 consisting of interviews and questionnaires, showed that Chalmers at Master’s level can be a segregated environment with students choosing to sit and work with their own nationality groups.
Clearly, there is a need to work actively with intercultural competence within the programs to support students’ awareness. There is also a need for learning activities and learning goals where intercultural competence is included. This round table discussion is designed to discuss possible initiatives that can be taken and how these can be assessed within the framework for engineering education.
The following questions are presented for the workshop discussion:
· What examples are there at Chalmers of successful integration of Swedish and non-Swedish students?
· What strategies are used / can be used to create this integration?
· How is it possible to integrate a global perspective in teaching?
· How is it possible to use the cultural diversity in a teaching situation?